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Huntsville Workers Compensation AttorneysAccording to the new Amazon CEO, the company’s “injury rates are sometimes misunderstood.” I guess that’s his “spin” on the high numbers. In modern society, “I’m just misunderstood” seems to be the first defense for people who do NOT want accountability for their bad or dangerous decisions!

The Amazon CEO’s letter reminds me of a construction injury case I worked several years ago. I represented a steel worker who suffered disabling injuries in a worksite fall on a Huntsville project. The contractor did nothing for safety — No real safety plan. No real safety meetings. No real safety equipment. At trial, the construction company’s executive claimed his company was safe and my case was just a “misunderstanding” of their safety culture. The executive then bragged from the witness stand about a safety award the company won (and proudly displayed on its website). Here’s the problem with their so-called award — It was a complete spin. They had multiple accidents and even deaths on their worksites. The award only counted project managers. It did not count the workers doing the real (and dangerous) jobs. It was a fake award. If any “misunderstanding” existed, it was because the company was trying to spin its safety failures. Fortunately, the truth came out in our trial. We were able to hold the company accountable for all our client’s personal injuries and damages.

Is safety a real concern or not? Do some companies manipulate the numbers to lie about their safety record? Are these companies simply “misunderstood” as Amazon’s CEO claims? What’s the real truth?

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Distracted Driving Injury AttorneysDing!

You glance down at the phone to read a text. Then, you look back at the road ahead.

Ding!

You glance down to read another text. When you look back to the road this time – the car in front of you is stopped! All you see are red brake lights. It’s too late.

Crash!

That’s how quickly distractions can result in car crashes. A crash at normal roadway speeds creates a huge risk of serious personal injury. We hear some version of this story almost every week. A story of distraction while texting, selecting songs, or other uses of a cellphone. Continue reading →

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Car Accident LawyersIn the current gig-economy, some companies have constructed huge enterprises based on business models that classify their entire workforce as independent contractors. By classifying their workers as independent contractors rather than employees, these companies shift their costs onto the workers and communities they serve.

Traditionally, companies paid payroll taxes on employees. And, companies provided benefits (such as workers’ compensation) for employees. Neither is true with independent contractors. The costs and taxes are shifted to the worker. Work-related injury and disability costs are shifted first to the worker. But, when the worker is unable to pay, these costs are borne by the entire community. In past years, I’ve written several articles discussing why basic workers compensation benefits are important to our entire community.

Employee classification matters for several reasons. Today, I’ll stick to a topic I frequently discuss — Workers’ Compensation In Alabama.

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Untitled-design-3-300x300A recent insurance journal headline reads, Positive Drug Tests In US Workforce Highest In Two Decades. According to the article, positive drug test rates increased another 4.6% in 2021. The rate shows a 31.4% increase from its all-time low just 10 years ago. In isolation, those statistics are troubling. Let’s talk a little more about the potential impact of increasing employee drug use on accidents and injuries. An increase in drug impairment means an increase in dangers among employees on worksites. It also means an increase in dangers to the public, especially on our roads and highways. Today, I’ll address a couple areas of concern as well as one area of potential long-term good news.

Do Changing Marijuana Laws Impact Workers Compensation Claims? And Other Personal Injury Claims?

I’ve written several times about the potential impact of changing marijuana beliefs and laws on work-related accidents. In Alabama, our work comp law bars claims where (1) the worker was impaired; and, (2) that impairment proximately caused the accident. That second requirement – the impairment proximately caused the accident – is likely to be a key issue in more future cases.

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Worker-Safety-Is-Important-For-Everyone-300x300Last Fall, I wrote about two deadly trench collapses in the Huntsville area. One trench collapse involved a private construction company in Madison. The other involved a City of Huntsville project and public employees. Year-after-year, trench collapses are one of the most frequent causes of construction site wrongful deaths.

Were these two deadly construction accidents treated differently? Yes. After an investigation, OSHA fined the private contractor in Madison for its fatal accident. The City’s public project? That’s a different story. The City was not cited for the dangerous worksite it created. And, it did create one. A 20 foot deep, unprotected trench, is a reckless and dangerous condition. It’s inexcusable for the City to put its workers in such tremendous danger!

Why were the two different sites treated differently? Why do workers employed with private companies get some protection from OSHA while many public workers do not? All workers deserve a safe workplace!

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Best OfI saw the picture on Facebook. The Huntsville lawyer stands smiling next to his desk. On the desk sits a large glass (or plastic) trophy. I cannot remember the name of the award. It was probably “Best Lawyer Across From The Courthouse In Downtown Huntsville!” I’m sure it was the best of something. I also know this — The same company sent an email to lawyers across Alabama promising to award them “the best of….” for only a small price. For a couple hundred dollars they could also stand next to the trophy and market themselves to unsuspecting clients. It’s a scam.

I’ll give you another example. Last week, some website published a list of its 20 best personal injury lawyers in Huntsville. I only heard of this list because another lawyer was laughing about it. Why was he laughing? This lawyer tried multiple car accident cases in Madison County last year. Our firm tried some as well. He was laughing because he hadn’t seen the listed lawyers at the courthouse.

The list was quite interesting. It contained 3 or 4 criminal lawyers who don’t even handle personal injury cases. It included a firm that advertises for car accident cases but secretly has a deal to refer the cases to an outside lawyer for a fee. That advertising firm even put a real small print disclaimer on one of its website pages. The reality — They don’t try accident and injury cases. I think that type of misleading advertising is horrible. The list also had a semi-retired local lawyer on it. These firms contributed in exchange for a fake “vanity” listing and internet link they could market.

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Alabama Workers Compensation LawyersI’ve written a couple times about first responders in Alabama and the need for benefits related to PTSD. Many state legislatures are currently considering proposals to provide additional benefits to first responders for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The Alabama Legislature has considered proposals in the past and is also considering one in the current legislative session.

After a couple pandemic years which saw first responders stretched to the limit, this discussion is really important. Let’s look at this issue a little closer.

How Does Alabama Work Comp Law Fall Short On Covering PTSD?

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Blackwell Law Firm - Personal Injury AttorneysI recently wrote a post asking the question, Is Drug Use Among Truck Drivers Increasing? I discussed several issues in my article. To be fair, during the recent covid pandemic, law enforcement agencies across northern Alabama reported increased DUI arrests for all drivers. Non-commercial drivers. So, it’s likely that impaired driving increased during the pandemic among all drivers.

As I discussed in my prior post, the US Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) now has a clearinghouse database for information related to commercial drivers with alcohol or drug issues. That’s great. We need a safety database where potential drivers who fail pre-employment drug screens or who test positive for impaired driving after an accident, can be listed. We definitely do not need a patchwork system where a bad driver can simply go elsewhere to be rehired.

The clearinghouse has only recently become fully mandatory for reporting. That’s why I concluded in my prior post that the data is too limited to determine whether impaired driving is really increasing.

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Huntsville Accident & Injury LawyersI’ve written more posts about the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) than I can count. Most of my OSHA-related articles discuss specific safety hazards or issues that impact my Alabama clients. In some articles, I discuss specific citations at Alabama businesses.

One of my primary complaints — OSHA is undermanned and underfunded. The Agency should protect working men and women. In theory, it does. In reality, it lacks the manpower to conduct needed inspections. Unsafe workplaces across the United States go without inspection until a deadly accident leaves families grieving the loss of a loved one. This lack of manpower and inspections are issues I’ve discussed many times. So, I’ll leave it for today.

Are OSHA inspections and violations public record? Someone recently asked our office this question. Yes, they are accessible. In many prior cases, I’ve obtained OSHA reports or data. Through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, you can find detailed information about violations and other incidents. In prior cases, I’ve found key information from these FOIA requests. I’ve also obtained information from OSHA’s Birmingham area office. But, I’m not writing simply to list the steps in a FOIA request. Nor am I writing to list addresses that are available in a simple Google search. Instead, I want to talk about a couple serious ways OSHA can help your injury case. I also want to discuss a third way OSHA should impact safety through our work comp system. Unfortunately, it does not in Alabama.

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Huntsville Truck Injury AttorneysThe U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently released detailed data on truck driver drug testing. The data shows drug violations among truckers increased in 2021. One truck driver website reported the information as follows:

Violations reported to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse were up 10.2% in 2021 compared to 2020, according to FMCSA’s December 2021 monthly report.

Several other news sources reported the results with alarm. Any increase in drug or alcohol use among commercial drivers is alarming. Impaired driving is a major cause of needless highway accidents, injuries and deaths. Yes, data showing a 10% jump in one year is alarming. But, I would read the results with caution. I’ll explain below why I don’t read too much into this current data.

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